By Tunde Otegbeye
Many have been clamouring for a return to business as usual. But with no hope in sight for an end to the spread of the Coronavirus, the federal government had no option than to extend the COVID-19 lockdown for another 14 days, beginning from midnight Monday, April 13, 2020, in Lagos and Ogun states, as well as in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, where the pandemic is believed to be more pronounced.
Generally, residents of these areas have not been favourably disposed to the extension in the face of economic hardship that results from it.
However, in Ogun State, the story is different. The level of compliance has been highly commendable, as the informal sector, particularly road transport workers, market women and men, artisans and others have been complying with the lockdown. And this development has, in no small measure, reinforced the belief in the collective efforts, and not that of the government alone, in the fight against the dreaded novel virus. The level of awareness and sensitisation of the people on social distancing is high. People now avoid close interactions, like a plague. Popular locations in Abeokuta, the state capital, with high density influx of traders, like Kuto, Panseke, Omida, Lanfenwa, Ita-Oshin, Obantoko, Itoku, and others in Ijebu-Ode, Ijebu-Igbo, Ifo, Sagamu, Ilaro and Sango-Otta are like ghost locations. There has been no violent acts or face-off with security operatives, comprising armed policemen, operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), members of the Vigilante Group, officials of the Traffic Compliance and Enforcement (TRACE) and other local security operatives, who are manning every entry and exit route within the state.
Thus, the leaders of these security outfits praise their officers and men for maintaining high discipline, which they say show, to a great extent, the level of leadership the administration in the state has put in place to avoid any breakdown of law and order in the course of enforcement of the restrictions.
The state government has also come to the rescue of residents, to lessen the attendant effects of the lockdown, by allowing them to prepare and stock their homes with food items and other edibles through a day-on, and a day-off system.
At the beginning of the lockdown, the state government embarked on awareness creation on the dangers of the virus, using radio and television jingles, posters and handbills that sensitised them on measures like social distancing, personal hygiene of washing hands with soaps, use of face masks, the launch of the ‘Mobile App’ christened, Ogun COVID-19 Assessment”, pegging the number of people at any gathering to not more than 20 persons, closure of both public and private schools, among others.
Similarly, the government, in its kindness, provided hand sanitisers that were produced jointly by the Ministry of Health and Hospital Health Management for mass distribution across the state. Besides, before the presidency ordered the closure of all international borders, Ogun State took up the gauntlet and directed the closure of all land borders, especially the porous international routes with the Republic of Benin.
The government showed it was on top of the situation with the provision of 1,000 bed facilities in three different locations, Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu; Iberekodo, Abeokuta; and Ikenne, the largest of its kind in the country.
The citizens and residents of the state are pleasantly surprised at the great extent to which Governor Dapo Abiodun has gone to put every machinery in motion to combat the spread of the disease.
In demonstration of his avowed commitment to the wellbeing of all, Abiodun considered the full implications of the total lockdown and came up with the provision of relief materials and economic stimulus to prevent starvation. While making good his promise and, in a bid to cushion the attendant effects of the initial two-week lockdown, the state government gave out various staple food and essential hygiene items, all neatly bagged for distribution to no fewer than three million citizens across the 236 wards in the state. The intended targets are the poor and vulnerable people, who are getting the stimulus, being distributed in phases and the Governor is personally taking charge to prevent the process from being hijacked or the items being diverted.
The involvement of religious leaders, market women and men, community leaders, regardless of political affinities, apolitical leaders and top civil servants from the various local governments is seen as a welcome development. Apart from checking the diversion of the relief materials, it will ensure fair, equitable and inclusive distribution to all and sundry.
It is pertinent to mention here that while other politicians seize the occasion to sell their future ambitions in the distribution of the relief materials to their loyalists and supporters across the state, the reverse is the case with Abiodun who averred that the materials are meant to cater for all and sundry, regardless of political affinities. And the directive has still remained in force to ensure that the poor and vulnerable people benefit from the largesse.
He appreciated the sacrifices the citizens have made so far. On the 14-day extension, Abiodun charged Ogun citizens and residents to consider the measure a necessary sacrifice to tackle the disease headlong.
The governor, who is conscious of the fact that the people’s health should be paramount for good governance, has reduced the stress of having to travel far to, either Lagos or Ede in Osun State or Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory before coronavirus patients could receive treatments.
The state government has procured a molecular laboratory, located at OOUTH, Sagamu to ensure that tests of suspected cases could be done within the state.
It is expected that when the facility becomes fully operational, it would reduce tests turnaround time that is currently taking between three and five days and also, help in fast-tracking the handling of positive cases. More importantly, it could be seen that no other state has done enough than Ogun in curtailing and containing the spread of the disease.
This singular act has earned the government the trust and confidence of the people in providing good leadership and qualitative governance to impact positively on their welfare. To a great extent, this shows the level of leadership the administration in the state has infused to avoid any breakdown of law and order.
Governor Abiodun needs to be appreciated and commended for his statesmanship approach in handling and preventing the virus from escalating after the index case recorded in the state.
––Otegbeye writes from Ilaro, Ogun State.